• Tatiana Collier

Distilling with distinction

After eight months, through COVID lockdowns and a relocation of operations, Kilderkin Distillery is ready to reopen their doors and share their latest creations, collaborations, and new home with the community.

It’s been a hectic year for Chris and Rebecca Pratt, owners and founders of Kilderkin Distillery. The operation has gone through several in-house changes, found a new home, and had to navigate two years of lockdowns and restrictions.

Yet despite all these challenges, production has remained strong for the distillery, with their signature blends continuing to sell well, one blend now an award winner, and successful collaborations resulting in new products.

Kilderkin is best known as the home of Larrikin, a collection of boutique gins, each with their own individual flavour profile and story. The team has created some distinctly Australian flavoured gins, drawing inspiration from some of our country’s unique environments.

“There are so many opportunities to create interesting flavour profiles for gin, because the list of fruits and botanicals you can use in endless. We take inspiration from what’s around us – our home, our country, our history.

“Most gins start with a base of juniper and coriander. We used this, and added botanicals such as lemon myrtle, lilly pilly, pepper berry and wattle seed to create the Original Larrikin, our signature gin.

“The Sunburnt Country is what we like to call our “bush tucker” gin, and is a tribute to our hot, dry climates. It uses native botanicals and has an underlying sweetness from bush fruits, and we bottle it at 50.7 % alcohol, to reflect Australia’s highest recorded temperature.”

There are six varieties of gin in the Larrikin collection, including a classic London Dry style gin, known as The Scoundrel; a barrel-aged gin; and the Buccaneer, which was awarded Champion Victorian Gin at the 2020 Australian Distilled Spirit Awards.

“We’re really proud of that award as it beat over 100 gins, across every category. It was a terrific achievement.”

The sixth gin on the list came from a collaboration with local restaurant Lola, at Ballarat’s Provincial Hotel, who wanted to create their own signature blend to serve their customers.

“The restaurant was serving our Scoundrel, and the head chef at the time approached us to learn about the distilling process and develop a flavour profile of their own. He wanted to enhance the alcohol content and the presence of the juniper botanicals. Now Lola gin is served at the restaurant, and we continue to produce and sell it too.”

Collaborations with local businesses is something Chris and Rebecca are proud of and welcome the opportunity.

“Wherever possible we source our supplies locally. If it can’t be from Ballarat, then we look around regional Victoria.

“We look to work with as many local businesses as possible, and it doesn’t have to be making spirits. We like to find ways to reuse our fruits and botanicals after the distilling process.

“We teamed up with Naturally Berry to make cherry jam, using the fruit leftover from our cherry liqueur. We’re also working on an idea to make candles using some of the fruit and botanical biproducts from distilling.”

Most recently, Kilderkin partnered with Ballarat tourism icon Sovereign Hill to create a gin to use as a fundraiser for the organisation, which is inspired by a true story from the goldfields.

“Polly, a widow with a family to support, settled on the goldfields and opened a coffee tent to earn an income. However, according to the history books, customers could order a sly drink to go with their coffee. So, with the input from staff at Sovereign Hill, we developed the Sly Grog.

“It uses Australian botanicals, such as lemon myrtle and cinnamon myrtle, and we even managed to use some botanicals that grow at Sovereign Hill. It’s an easy drinking gin, with a slightly sweet edge thanks to orange peel and banksia flowers.

“It’s been an exciting project for us and we’re happy to contribute to Sovereign Hill’s fundraising effort after a really tough two years for the tourism industry.”

Although known for their gin, Kilderkin has had success with other products including liqueurs, and there are more ideas in the pipeline.

“The Cambrian Hill Espresso Martini was another great collaboration. We worked with two Ballarat businesses to develop a coffee flavoured cocktail that has proved popular in the market.

“We currently have a Bramble Apple Liqueur that was inspired by my mother’s Scottish recipe for bramble (blackberry) and apple pie. We had a lot of fun developing that, constantly adjusting the cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices to get it to taste just right.

“We want to do another run of our cherry liqueur, and next year we plan to release our first run of Kilderkin whiskey. We’re also working on our own version of the classic Italian liqueur Limoncello, using some lemon myrtle to give it an Australian twist.”

Having well and truly settled into manufacturing at their new home in the Ballarat suburb of Mount Pleasant, Kilderkin is looking forward to reopening a cellar door this summer.

“We’ll have a bar area for tastings, and a room to host masterclasses for people who want to learn about creating flavour profiles and distilling. We have room out the back for people to sit and spend an afternoon, and space for chairs and tables out the front too.

“It’s been a long road to reopening, but we’re just about there now. Our neighbours in the area are so supportive, and the Ballarat community has been fantastic, encouraging us and keeping us going.

“Mostly we’re looking forward to connecting with the community again. We love to get out to farmers markets and meet people, and we’ll keep doing that, but now we’ll be able to welcome people in and tell the stories of each of our products in person.

“It’s an exciting time.”

Kilderkin Distillery is located at 14 Hill Street, Mount Pleasant. Products can be purchased at local stockists or online.

Sly Grog was officially released to the public in November 2021 and is available to purchase from Sovereign Hill and online.

For more information about product releases and the opening date for the cellar door, follow Larrikin Gin on Instagram and Facebook.

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